General Principles of Drafting 

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The process of drafting legal documents is governed by a set of general principles of drafting that lay the foundation for creating effective and persuasive written materials.

These principles encompass various aspects, including forming a comprehensive outline, carefully arranging facts, using clear style and language, and attention to physical characteristics. 

Meaning of Drafting

“Drafting” refers to preparing written legal documents, such as contracts, agreements, pleadings, opinions, or other legal instruments. It is a specialised skill that requires practice and expertise to effectively communicate legal concepts and information.

The primary objective of drafting is to present a concise and accurate representation of the relevant facts and legal principles pertaining to a particular situation or issue. It involves organising and structuring the information logically and coherently, ensuring clarity and precision in the language used.

Drafting legal documents requires legal knowledge, analytical thinking, and attention to detail. Advocates or legal professionals who engage in drafting must understand the relevant laws, regulations, and legal principles applicable to the subject matter.

Process of Drafting

The process of drafting typically involves multiple iterations or drafts before a final version is prepared. Each draft serves a specific purpose:

The first draft: This initial version focuses on capturing the comprehensive and complete set of facts related to the matter at hand. It aims to gather all the relevant information and ensure that nothing significant is omitted.

The second draft: The second draft involves refining and improving the content of the initial draft. It involves reviewing and revising the document’s form, structure, and language. This stage often involves trimming unnecessary or redundant information and clarifying any ambiguities or inconsistencies.

The final draft: The final draft is the culmination of the drafting process. It aims to give the document a polished and authoritative touch. The document is reviewed for accuracy, coherence, and effectiveness in conveying the intended message at this stage. The final draft should be persuasive and capable of convincing the intended audience, whether it be a court, client, or other relevant parties.

Throughout the drafting process, careful consideration is given to the choice of words, phrasing, and style of writing. Precise and accurate legal language is employed to ensure that the document conveys the intended legal meaning effectively. Individuals with competent knowledge of the subject matter should readily understand the draft, avoiding jargon or overly technical terms that may hinder comprehension.

What is a Draft?

The term “draft” has different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. In the context of drafting legal documents, a draft refers to a preliminary version or an outline of a document that is being prepared. It serves as a working document from which a final version will be derived.

A draft is typically an intermediate stage in the process of creating a document. It may contain the final document’s main points, structure, and key elements, but it is not the completed or finalised version. Instead, it serves as a starting point for further refinement and editing.

In the legal context, a draft can refer to various types of documents, including contracts, agreements, pleadings, opinions, or other legal instruments. The purpose of creating a draft is to allow for careful review, revision, and collaboration before producing the final version.

In legal terms, a draftsman prepares or draws up legal documents, such as wills, gift deeds, or other legal instruments. They have the expertise and knowledge to accurately capture the intentions and requirements of the parties involved in the document.

On the other hand, a dragoman historically referred to an interpreter or translator who facilitated communication between individuals who spoke different languages. In the legal context, a dragoman could be someone who interprets pleadings or other written documents, helping to bridge the linguistic and cultural gaps that may arise in legal proceedings.

In summary, a draft is an early version or outline of a document that is being prepared, serving as a working document from which a final version will be derived. A draftsman is responsible for drawing up legal documents, while a dragoman historically referred to as an interpreter or translator in legal settings.

What are the General Principles of Drafting?

Drafting is essential in various fields, such as law, technical writing, and general document preparation. It involves the creation of a preliminary version or outline of a document before its finalisation. The process of drafting is governed by several principles that ensure the effectiveness and clarity of the final document. This section will explore the general principles of drafting and their importance in creating well-structured and coherent documents.

The general principles of drafting are:

Formation of Outline in a Satisfactory Manner

Elaboration and Addressing of Important Issues

  • Detailed Content: The draft should delve into the subject matter and cover all relevant aspects. It should thoroughly analyse the topic, leaving no significant points unaddressed.
  • Avoidance of Vagueness: Ambiguity and vagueness hinder effective communication. Therefore, the draft should strive to be clear and concise, avoiding vague language or unclear statements.
  • Consideration of Relevancy: The draft should focus on the essential aspects of the subject matter, ensuring that all relevant points are included while omitting irrelevant or extraneous information.
  • Content Unity: The draft should maintain a cohesive flow of ideas, ensuring that all paragraphs and sections contribute to the central theme or purpose of the document.
  • Chronological Order: The facts, arguments, or information presented in the draft should be arranged in a logical and chronological sequence, enabling a coherent understanding of the topic.

One Major Point Per Paragraph

Paragraph Structure: Each paragraph in the draft should have a clear and distinct focus, addressing one major point or idea. This approach enhances readability and facilitates comprehension for the readers.

Emphasis on the Arrangement of Facts

  • Organised Presentation: The facts, arguments, or information within the draft should be arranged in a step-by-step manner, reflecting a structured and systematic analysis of the problem at hand.
  • Uniformity and Consistency: There should be consistency in the presentation of ideas throughout the draft. This ensures a smooth flow of information and aids in the understanding of complex concepts or arguments.

Style and Language

  • Effective Idea Transmission: The style of writing in the draft should facilitate the conveyance of ideas. It should be clear, concise, and easy to comprehend, effectively communicating the intended message.
  • Appropriate Use of Legal Terms: In legal drafting, it is crucial to use appropriate legal terminology to convey facts accurately and precisely. The use of the correct legal terms enhances the professionalism and clarity of the document.
  • Simple and Faultless Language: The language used in the draft should be simple, avoiding unnecessary complexity or jargon. It should also be free from grammatical errors, incorrect spelling, illogical paragraphing, and poor punctuation, as these can diminish the value and credibility of the document.
  • Avoidance of Repetitions: Redundancy should be avoided to maintain the clarity and conciseness of the draft.

Physical Characteristics

  • Paper Quality and Margins: The draft should be typed on standard quality paper, typically measuring 20 by 30 cm. Margins of 4 cm. at the top and left side and 2.5 to 4 cm. on the right side and bottom should be maintained to ensure a neat and professional appearance.
  • Page Numbering: Each page of the draft should be numbered, allowing for easy reference and navigation.
  • Differentiation of Preliminaries and Main Text: Preliminary sections, such as the table of contents or acknowledgements, should be numbered using Roman numerals (i, ii, iii), while the main text should be numbered using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).
  • Formatting of Paragraphs: The document’s body should be double-spaced, ensuring sufficient spacing between lines for improved readability. Additionally, 5 spaces should indent each paragraph, and paragraph numbering can be used for better organisation and referencing.
  • Document Binding: To maintain the integrity and organisation of the draft, all sheets should be securely bound together.

Choice of Words in Drafting

Indeed, the draftsman should be mindful that the choice of words in a draft significantly impacts its quality. Here are some key points to consider when selecting words for a legal draft:

Consistent Meaning: Words should be used consistently throughout the draft, ensuring that they convey the same sense and meaning. Avoid using different terms or synonyms interchangeably, as it may lead to confusion or ambiguity.

Active Voice: Whenever possible, prefer using the active voice over the passive voice. The active voice provides clarity and directness in conveying the subject and action of the sentence. However, if the passive voice enhances the clarity or emphasises a particular aspect, it may be used appropriately.

Avoid Starting Paragraphs with ‘That’: In modern usage, it is generally recommended to avoid starting paragraphs with the word ‘that.’ Instead, opt for alternative sentence structures to maintain variety and flow in the draft.

One Thing at a Time: To ensure clarity and coherence, focus on addressing one point or topic at a time in each paragraph or section of the draft. This approach helps readers to follow the logical progression of ideas and reduces the likelihood of confusion or misinterpretation.


The general principles of drafting guide the creation of effective legal documents. A satisfactory outline, careful arrangement of facts, and clear style and language are fundamental. Attention to physical characteristics, such as paper quality and proper numbering, adds professionalism. Following rules like conceptualising the design, avoiding omissions, and employing precise legal language are crucial. 

The document should be intelligible to those familiar with the subject matter, with paragraphs focused on distinct topics. Logical organisation, numbering, and word choice enhance clarity. Thorough proofreading ensures accuracy. By adhering to these principles, draftsmen can produce high-quality legal documents that convey their intended messages accurately and persuasively.

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